There are those Sundays when you get started slowly, and feel a little antsy actually sitting and reading the paper so you decide to go on a really long run. You come home to a Sam in the kitchen meticulously chopping cabbage and green onion, boiling eggs and catching up with his mom on the phone. Suddenly, you’re no longer antsy. The sun is out and it feels like the best, slowest kind of Sunday.
That’s what happened this past weekend. We even had the back door open and the heat turned off. It was a big day here in Seattle. There are many things that Sam has made for me this year that I’d love to recreate on my own or even share with you, but most of them aren’t really written down. Sam’s theory on cooking, baking and recipes in general is that you need to have a feel for them more than anything. This is not my strength. He believes in having good base recipes that you just have a sense for and then adapt from there. You want to be able to make a great scone and pancake whether you’re in your own kitchen or out in a remote cabin during the summer. You want to be able to roast vegetables, make salad dressing, cook a simple fish, and make cornbread and jammy pastry. He does these without a hard-and-fast recipe. They’re basics in our house, and he’s been working hard to get me to be more comfortable shutting the cookbooks and learning to trust my own instincts in remembering and recreating them.
This coleslaw? Sam wanted me to make sure to tell you that this is most definitely a dish where you stock up on the ingredients, but use your intuition to guide you regarding the amounts. This isn’t fine cooking or precise baking. He added a little more mustard this time around and we threw in all of our parsley so it wouldn’t go to waste. It’s not the same coleslaw that he might have made for himself a month ago, but it was delicious all the same. For this reason, the recipe listed below is really a rough guide, so set aside a bit of time and chop and taste and adjust as you like.
Sure, coleslaw is no Salted Caramel Cupcake. It’s no Deluxe Brownie or Shaker Lemon Pie, but it can turn a Sunday around just like that, and actually keeps in the fridge beautifully for a few weekday lunches. Unlike most coleslaw recipes I’ve tried, Sam’s version has bits of hard-boiled egg, a smattering of green onion, celery and poppy seeds, and a healthy swath of Italian parsley. He dresses it with both mustard and mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper, and tastes and adjusts often as he goes. Remember in my last post how I said that I often throw together meals and that many folks don’t necessarily define this as actual cooking? Well if I throw them together, Sam most certainly composes them. He chops vegetables much finer than I do, he takes more time and has more patience. For this reason, this is one most lovely coleslaw. I can’t wait for you to try it.
As we sat in the nook on Sunday afternoon finessing this coleslaw, it was hard not to think about what we’d been up to one year ago–the weekend I picked Sam up from Point Reyes Station and it all began. A year of plane trips and late night phone calls, visits and holidays. On Monday we celebrated our anniversary together with a very special dinner at Spinasse filled with buttery pasta, good wine, rabbit meatballs, and a goat cheese mousse with local rhubarb. Waking up yesterday with big to-do lists, we got right to work: me running errands for Marge, he working on a design project. As I sat flustered in traffic, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dinner we shared and how much I wished I were back at that candlelit table, slowly ambling away an unusually warm evening with Sam. But in between those meals, those long conversations, those glasses of wine, there has to be wonderfully basic food to sustain us. Quiet Sundays, boiled eggs and cabbage, The Book Review and calls to catch up with your mom. Sam: I hope this upcoming year is filled with many more bowls of coleslaw (and banana pancakes too, please). Together. On Sundays. As I know it will be.
Chop the cabbage as fine as you have thepatience for.
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, green onion, parsley, celery and eggs. Toss to combine. Add the mustard and mayonnaise and stir together. Taste to see where it stands; add more mustard or mayonnaise if you wish. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with a generous dusting of poppy seeds and mix the whole thing together.
Store covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.